Noel Wilson has raised £40,000 for us by touring race courses in the UK and setting official lap times on an 8mph mobility scooter.
A bloody silly idea
It was 2am on New Year’s Day 2016 when I came up with the idea. Fuelled by a few glasses of some nice Merlot, I had a sudden moment of inspiration. Why not raise money for the MS Society by driving a mobility scooter around all the race circuits in the UK and setting official lap times?
I was worried I was going to forget my brainwave by the time I woke up the next day. So I immediately logged on to my computer and wrote it all down in a Word document. I named the file ‘A bloody silly idea.doc’. Because at the time it was just that, a silly idea. I never expected what was going to happen next…
Motor racing and me
But let’s go back a few years first.
Motor racing was always a huge part of my life. It started when my dad took me to my first Formula One race when I was five or six. From then on, I was hooked. By 15 I was competing as a rally navigator and at 16 driving at on/off road events.
I later went on to work as a kart circuit manager and then a motorsport instructor for 20 odd years. I instructed at race circuits and worked for such manufacturers as Volvo, Ford, Vauxhall and Mazda. It was just the sort of job you didn’t want to give up.
Photograph by Jeff Bloxham
Getting diagnosed with MS
I knew from 1992 there was something wrong. I had a very temporary loss of vision in one of my eyes and started to have problems walking. But instead of getting it checked out, I buried my head in the sand and didn’t do anything. It’s a bloke thing! As it happened at that time there was nothing they could do anyway.
It wasn’t until 2013 that I was diagnosed with MS. I’d been involved in a car accident and had to have an operation on my back. Once I came out of hospital I started getting other symptoms, like pins and needles in my arm.
Eventually, my GP sent me to a neurologist. I had an MRI test which confirmed I had MS. At the same time they found a tumour on my spinal cord, which meant another operation.
I was devastated when I heard the news and realised I wouldn’t be able to race again. By this time I’d had to leave my job in the motor industry. I couldn’t get around and needed to use a mobility scooter.
Everyone said I was crazy. In fact, when I told my wife about the plan the morning after, she said “you’re mad Wilson, go back to bed.”Noel
Making the idea a reality
Ever since I was diagnosed I wanted a way to give something back, to do something positive while I still can.
This is what led me to come up with my idea: to tour around the race circuits in the UK and set an official lap time using a mobility scooter.
Everyone said I was crazy. In fact, when I told my wife about the plan the morning after, she said “you’re mad Wilson, go back to bed”. All my friends in the industry said it was impossible, that they wouldn't let me on the circuits, it just wouldn’t happen.
But I persevered. The hardest part was persuading organisers to actually let me on the courses. It helped that I knew lots of people in the industry, but it was still an uphill struggle, involving lots of emails, phone calls and meetings.
Photograph by Charlie Wooding
Fundraiser of the year
But by 30 April 2016 I was at Silverstone setting my first official lap time. I did the lap in 11 minutes and 21 seconds, with an average speed of 8.66 mph.
Since then I’ve done 46 fundraising events on my mobility scooter, raising £40,000 for the MS Society. And I’ve achieved my dream of setting an official lap time on every accredited race circuit on the UK Mainland. I also won the fundraiser of the year award at the MS Society in 2018, which was incredible.
One of the best things about travelling at 8mph is that you get time to properly take in the scenery. Circuits like Anglesea and the Isle of Man have amazing views that you would miss if you were travelling at 150mph.
Living with MS and future plans
Nowadays, MS has completely taken over my life. I can’t walk so I’m in my power chair all the time, and I have to deal with daily pain. But I get on with it the best I can. My wife keeps me going, and so does my fundraising, which I work on every day.
Next year I’m planning another, even sillier, activity. It will be a 24 hour event, held in Milton Keynes, along with two other drivers both who also have MS. We will have 2 hours driving time on the buggy, and 4 hours recovery time. Just like Le Mans drivers we'll be racing from 2pm, right through the night and on until 2pm the next afternoon. Needless to say, my wife still thinks I’m crazy.
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We’re the closest we’ve ever been to treatments for everyone. We can see a future where no-one needs to worry about their MS getting worse. To get us there we’ve launched our biggest fundraising appeal yet and we need your help.